The big day is just around the corner. You’ve trained for weeks, months, even years, and now you’re ready to compete in your first hunter/jumper show. It’s an incredibly exciting time, and hopefully the first of many! However, it can also be a very nerve wracking experience. Country & Stable knows just how overwhelming your first hunter/jumper competition can be, so we’re sharing 10 of our top tips to help the day go smoothly and be as enjoyable as possible…
A brand new show venue is in the process of being built in Central Ohio: Willow Way Equestrian Center and people are excited. While the farm itself (Willow Way) has been around for quite some time, connections with the farm purchased land behind the existing facility, excavated it, and are building a showgrounds. I had the opportunity to compete at the inaugural horse show at Willow Way Equestrian Center, and while it’s far from finished, what is complete is phenomenal and it’s easy to see the facility’s potential.
I was lucky enough to have a four-day weekend thanks to the holiday, so of course I spent my extra time off at a horse show! New Vocations is a well-recognized and nationally renowned Thoroughbred (and Standardbred!) adoption program located right in my backyard. Every year they host a horse show at the local county fairgrounds that we frequent for another show series. I’ve personally never attended this show, but this year, our barn took 12 horses — it was quite a party!
Overall, the show was an adventure. It poured rain all week, so schooling on Friday was exceptionally sloppy. Vinnie started off pretty full of himself on the flat, but I decided to ignore it and try to jump some jumps. And what do you know: Vinnie was a gentleman! This show used different jumps and standards than the other show series we normally attend and even on the flat, Vinnie wasn’t too keen on some of the fun wing standards. Over fences, he sucked back to a few, but I got him over every single one without a refusal. Go me!
Saturday dawned dreary and muggy and the show ran very slowly. In my ring, the schedule had hunters/equitation in the morning with jumpers in the afternoon. Normally I only show hunters — I’ve never shown equitation over fences at a real hunter/jumper show — but this show split the divisions differently, so if I wanted to show at all on Saturday, Equitation was my only choice. So I put on my big girl pants, and signed up. I told myself it would just be for fun and experience, so no worries about placings or anything of the sort.
My warm-up was wasn’t great — I chipped in a lot, and went too slowly. But I was able to learn from that round and make changes for the first over fences trip and did great! Obviously its not perfect, but for me, it was pretty darn good. Here’s the video evidence:
We ended up placing 6th out of 16 for our effort! To say that I was over-the-moon excited would be an understatement. I am so proud of myself for going out and doing it and for doing it well. My riding is definitely improving at every show and I am thinking so much more while I’m on course.
I’m not going to talk much about my second trip. We had a refusal due to rider error, but it’s all things I know I need to work on — and I am making improvements in those areas. So even though I probably should be upset about it, I’m not. I’m going to make mistakes, but overall I am riding better than I did last year and even at the first show this year.
Here is where the show went all downhill. I showed in the 4th division of the day… and I showed at 4 pm. Jumpers (all of them) ended up getting rained out. They decided to run them Sunday morning, before the regular hunter schedule in my ring.
Sunday I woke up and didn’t feel great. I meandered to the show, and Jumpers took forever. I got to watch my friends, which was a ton of fun, but I felt a migraine coming on. That, combined with the muddy ring, and I opted to scratch my hunter division. I was disappointed I didn’t show, but I wouldn’t have given Vinnie a good ride, and I really wanted to end on a good note.
Last week was pretty hectic, and by the time Friday arrived, I had adopted the following attitude: Just Fuck It. I had to work a full day on Friday (no half-day for me), so I didn’t arrive at the showgrounds to school until just after 6 pm.
I unloaded, set-up Vinnie’s fan and decided just to hop on and find out what I had to work with. Lo and behold, Vinnie was lazy. And the clouds parted and a chorus of angels sang hallelujah! Okay, maybe that part was just in my head, but I was so happy! We went into the ring, jumped every jump all in a row and were done. Schooling took all of 15 minutes from start to finish and I was beyond thrilled!
Saturday morning dawned hot and humid, with highs in 90’s. Sam didn’t get home from his out-of-town work trip until 1 am, so he slept in since I wasn’t slated to show until around 11 am, and this show is notorious for running behind. Then at 9:30, we got the announcement: “six trips and flat before the start of Limit Rider,” at which point I panicked, just slightly. Our plan was to show in the first rotation of my division, do the warm-up trip and if Vinnie was too strong, we would drop down in the order, get off and lunge.
So I called Sam, who was luckily already on his way. I got dressed, tacked up (all by myself! look at me, being all adult-like!) and went out to the warm-up. I trotted and cantered, then went over a little vertical twice. Vinnie was his perfect, old self: a total push ride, without a care in the world. I got dropped in the order to the second rotation due to conflicts in other rings, which turned out fine because Sam made it to the ring just as I was going in for my warm-up trip.
I didn’t manage to get any photos/video from Saturday, but man, did we kill it. I mean, we just murdered those courses. I rode really well, flowed and stretched up. It was absolutely glorious and I came out of that ring beaming! We placed 8th in one of our over fences classes, which in a division of 13 with no lead changes is pretty darn impressive, if I do say so myself.
I was much more prepared to go early this time and everything was all good. I was more tired, so I felt like I didn’t ride quite as well as I did on Saturday, but still much improved from the last show. Here was our best course:Sunday
We ended up placing 6th and 7th in our over fences classes! I was thrilled — I think we were the best team out there without a lead change, and that is fucking fantastic. We opted out of the under saddle — I was hot and tired, plus in a division that large, we just weren’t going to be competitive. I don’t need to practice the flat; the last two shows trainer has said I showed to the best of Vinnie’s ability on the flat and we didn’t place (which is fine). But I wanted to end on a great note, so I was happy with that decision.
All in all, definitely the best show this season and I am really, really happy to finally see some progress in myself, and see that reflected in the placings from show to show. Plus, I’m definitely well on my way to accomplishing my goal of riding better at each event!
Despite some tough questions this last horse show raised, I’m officially calling this last weekend a success, even though I didn’t bring home a single ribbon. That, in and of itself, is a big deal as I am currently attending meetings for Satin Lovers Anonymous and I honestly cannot tell you the last time I went home from a show without swag.
We went to a brand new venue, both for myself and Vinnie, and I was very impressed — the rings were big with excellent footing and the show was very efficiently run. Everyone was very nice and it was great to see some new faces.
Schooling on Friday sucked, as I said in my last post. But I got over it, got through it and the show went on. We changed our plan of attack a little bit on Saturday morning: I lunged (a first) and then hacked, both of which helped to have less horse (still a lot of horse, but less).
We hung out most of the morning, and right before we went to go grab lunch, my parents made a surprise appearance! Friday was my birthday, so my amazing boyfriend arranged to have them come down to watch on Saturday. He’s the best! It was awesome to see my mom and dad and of course, in true horse show mom fashion, there were birthday presents, a cake and an awesome flag day hat. My “in-laws” and Sam’s step-brother also came down and brought presents too. It was so great to have most of my family there to support me — I am truly blessed!
Anyways, back to the horse show. I did a warm-up and two hunter trips on Saturday. The warm-up was solid, the second trip not so much. I didn’t flow and my trainer said I kind of sat up there like a bump on a log (although she put it more nicely!). I regrouped for the third trip, which was much improved. We noticed that I’m focusing down too much, especially in my simple changes and I’m still struggling to flow. Whenever I don’t flow, I sit down hard and encourage my already forward pony to go even faster; talk about a vicious cycle!
Sunday I opted to just do my two trips and the under saddle without a warm-up. As soon as I got my courses, I was in a tizzy. The second trip was a Handy Hunter round, which I’ve never done before. Here’s the course:
Notice the second jump — the yellow trot jump. Except, it really wasn’t a jump — it was hay bales with brush in front and a log on top in between two other jumps. It was the only fence we didn’t school on Friday. Insert total panic attack here. Vinnie is notorious for jumping slightly scary/new jumps like they are 3′, and I usually do not have any semblance of grace when this occurs. In fact, I’m usually just lucky to stay on. So I fretted and worried and tried not to think about that jump the whole day… an endeavor I was mostly unsuccessful at.
Once we finally were ready to show, I went in with as much confidence as I could muster. My first round was okay, with most of the same problems: not enough stretching up and not enough following over the fence. Then we did our handy hunter. And look!
We went over the trot jump PERFECTLY! And our line after that was stellar. The rest was meh, but honestly, I was so thrilled about the log jump that I didn’t even care. We did get a score, which was kind of cool, as I’ve never been in a class that announced them before. We got a 55, which I know is not very good, but considering we have simple lead changes, and I’m struggling in general right now, I was honestly happy with that!
Hi! I'm Tracy, a full-time marketing/communications professional from Central Ohio. Fly On Over follows my journey through horse ownership and as a working adult amateur trying to find success in the hunter/jumper show ring with my Thoroughbred, Miles.